taking one frame at a time since 1999

I have a Canon EOS Rebel T1i and I made my first stop motion by gently releasing the lens while hitting the preview button and that removed the flicker from my stop motion shots. It did play havoc with my screen capture software Video Studio. Sometimes the preview would be too dark and other times it would be too bright. I was also always concerned that the lens would fall off. The lens was a Canon 18-55 that came with the kit so there was also concern of accidentally changing the focal length. I said I would not shoot my next project this way.

I decided I would order an older manual Canon lens and an adapter. The lens I got is a Canon 50mm f1.8 FD lens from ebay for $29. The lens looks brand new. The adapter I got is a Fotodiox for $35 from Amazon

Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount Adapter - Canon FD & FL 35mm SLR lens to Canon EOS (EF, EF-S) Mount SLR Camera Body, with Built-In Aperture Control Dial

First testing was would the two items fit and the answer is yes! Next tests were to try and get similar shots from an automatic lens. I came close but the manual shots do not have a very rich color palette. I think that is just the learning curve that I need to overcome by more tests. The adapter has an aperture control dial on it and then the lens has a dial also. I am still learning how to make these work in sync.

Next test will be a time lapse set up to check for flicker.

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Hi Michael. As I understand it, the problem with electronically controlled lenses is that with each shot, the camera resets the aperture, so it (I think) closes it and then puts it back to the same setting, but the machine is imperfect so the aperture can be ever so slightly more or less open on each shot. This results in a little more or less light getting in, and a flickery result when played back. The solution seems to be to get a manual lens and an adapter to stop the camera from controlling the aperture. I, for example, have a canon camera and a nikon lens, with a cheap metal adapter attaching the two. This way, the aperture doesn't move after I manually set it, and I don't get any flicker. Hope this helps! - Monica

Michael Hulas said:

HI all, ive just started to get my feet wet in the world of stop motion, and im new to this site also. ive read a little about why the use of a manual lens works better than an electronic one. im hoping someone can set me in the right direction. I just ordered a Canon REbel EOS T5i and it comes with a standard 18-55mm lens. I plan on buying Stop Motion Pro Eclipse for the software, and im trying to learn Gimp for the editing. What do i need to buy as far as the correct manual lens, including the mm, and lens attachments if any. any, and all sugestions would be greatly appreciated. i wanted to get Dragonframe, but i think it may be a bit to complicated for me. What do you guys think? Thanks.

I just looked at that video on lenses that Simon posted, and mostly I agree.  

For the very small Lego figures, you would like to get closer than 2 ft (600mm) for close-up shots. But 18" is ok for the bigger 12" puppets that I use.   Since you are shooting such big images, you can always crop tighter in post production to get more of a close-up, and still have HD resolution.

I also recommend the Nikon 55mm Micro lens though, for it's ability to get closer than that.

I wouldn't go for the 35mm as my next lens though, I'd usually want something wider.  A 28mm is good for most of my wide shots.  I managed for quite a while with just the 28mm and 55mm macro lenses, and could still get by with that.

I do sometimes use a Nikon 24mm, usually when I want to cheat perspective to make something in the foreground look bigger.  The wider angle makes it larger in frame, and also gives me a little more depth of field so it doesn't go so much out of focus and give away the fact that it is really smaller and very close to the camera.  I guess, if like hipster lens dude, you went for a 35mm, you would skip the 28mm and go straight to the 24mm.  I could also manage everything with just a 24mm and 55mm.

His last one, the 105mm, is a great portrait lens, but I would have very little use for it to shoot my miniature sets.  At that focal length the depth of field is too shallow, even with it stopped down.  I used to have the use of a set of re-mounted Nikons to fit on a Mitchell S35R  35mm movie camera, and the longest one, a 70mm, was never used.   I don't mind the background going soft, that's a good look for a closeup of a character.  But if I focussed on the puppet's eyes in a close-up, his ears would be a little far back to be in focus, and his nose was too far forward and would also go a bit blurry.   I would end up taking it off and using the 50mm, with the camera closer.

In general a useful video, though I would have liked to see less of his talking head and more showing what you would see through the lenses at different distances and f-stops.

As far as using Nikon lenses is concerned, I had first bought a Nikon D70 and the 55mm and 28mm lenses, so it was a no-brainer to get adapters and use them on the Canon 40d when I got that for the live view.  It turned out there are also adapters for Olympus OM mount lenses, so I can use a couple of those I still have from when I shot stills with an OM1.  I use a Olympus Zuiko 35-70mm on the Canon when I want something in between 28mm and 55mm, but I don't think it's quite as sharp as the Nikons.  But Nikon lenses on Canon bodies was also the way Corpse Bride went when they decided to switch from 35mm film, and has become an industry standard for professional stop motion.

Here's another video, on the cameras & lenses used by Aardman:

Doesn't go into much detail, just that they use Canon bodies and Nikon lenses.  No specific focal lengths mentioned.  One interesting point was that they thought the Zeiss lenses were too sharp, showed too much detail to be sympathetic to the clay animation characters.  

I know from working as a set designer on live shows for ABC TV, we used to get away with a lot with standard def (PAL) television (like slapping a bit of black gaffer tape on something to make it disappear).  Moving to high def some of the shortcuts in the full scale tv sets started to show up.   So I understand his point.  Miniatures just don't have all the detail of a fun scale set, it's partly about creating an impression.  All the same, I think I would like a sharp lens to start with, it's better for keying and effects.  You can soften it slightly in post, or add grain too if you want.

It's a bit off topic, but I was at the BBC when the first demonstration of HD took place in the UK, at Television Centre. It completely terrified everyone working in the art depts, as all the tromp l'oeil trickery and dodgy edges we had got away with in standard def and 16mm film were exposed as cheap and crappy in HD.... that was back in about 1985, so we resisted as long as we could!!

I understand that issue Simon. Something I build looks great until I put my glasses on.

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